At Durrell Communications, we place a high priority on helping people to tell their story in a way that honours what they truly want to communicate. So perhaps it’s not surprising that, as our discussion of the #MeToo hashtag developed, we were a little puzzled by our own hesitation in posting #MeToo on our personal social media channels. As an all-female office of eight women, we discovered (not surprisingly) that all of us had been touched by rape culture in the form of sexual assault or harassment, whether through our own personal experiences or through the experiences of friends and loved ones. We each saw women who were close to us posting #MeToo and sharing their authentic, heart-wrenching experiences. As women, we felt our hearts go out to women (both those who are posting and those who aren’t), because we all viscerally know and understand what it’s like to exist in a world that wants to sexualize and objectify us.
And yet, despite the solidarity we felt with the experiences behind each #MeToo post, each of us felt like something was holding us back from posting #MeToo. When we dug into this fear a little bit more, we discovered an array of complex emotions at the crux of it: shame at the thought of others knowing what we’d experienced, a desire to protect our family members from knowing, the concern that we wouldn’t be believed….all the usual suspects at play for women who are silenced by our culture’s harmful attitudes towards sexual assault.
For many of us, what these overpowering feelings reflect is the knowledge I think we all have, that if we speak about our experiences publicly, our society won’t allow us to control our own narratives about our experiences. While we live in a society that still hesitates to believe survivors and fails to recognize how common the threat of sexual violence is, we still think long and hard before we speak up, if we ever do.
Recognizing that the decision to speak out personally about your own experiences is a highly individual choice, we opted to stand together as we said “Us, too.”
Here are thoughts from some of our team members.
“Do I want to join the legions of women and be another statistic? Do I want to open myself up to prying questions and misplaced concern (because, I am fine, I really truly am!) Do I want my “friend”, still on Facebook, to reach out via a direct message?
No… I don’t. But, #metoo.”
I’m torn. I’m torn between wanting to stand in solidarity and not wanting to bring things up that I’ve put behind me. Not wanting to be defined by something that no matter what society tells me, I know was not my fault. At the end of the day I think it’s important to remember that using the #MeToo hashtag doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re ready or obligated about what happened/is happening. And that’s okay. And you’re not “bad” or “wrong” if you personally decide not to use it.
I think my hesitation in using the #MeToo hashtag is a mixture of having come to terms with what happened to me and wanting to put it behind me versus the need to show support and solidarity with other victims and let them know they’re not alone. Though I will say that seeing others share the hashtag on my social networks has helped me recognize that women I look up to and hold in such high regard have also dealt with their share of harassment and abuse and it is as widespread as we keep hearing, and it’s not just me.
After my experience, I shared it with a few close friends, as well as my therapist. Overwhelmingly, people wanted me to report it. I resisted–I had no interest in reporting it because I couldn’t prove it, the offender had far more power and influence than I did, and I just wanted to tuck it away in a corner of my mind and forget that it happened. As a person who had undergone training in assisting sexual assault survivors and felt like I knew the issue inside and out, I still couldn’t get over the shock that it had actually happened to me.
Our experiences define us, that is irrevocably true. Yet I find myself not wanting to be defined by an experience that left me questioning my own views. I read so many stories about women who did not speak up about their experiences and I told myself that if it happened to me, I would defy those odds. Then the incident happened while on my travels, and suddenly the lines I set for myself were far less clear. Do I tell someone? Would I be blamed? Would my mom say I told you so? Would my friends treat me differently? The misdirected shame I felt threw me.
Interested in sharing your voice or experiences? We’d love to hear from you. Let us know in the comments.